Any broker who provides a listing’s square footage verbally or in writing — even with a disclaimer — has to be chastened by one buyer’s latest victory.
As the indefatigable Christine Haughney reported in yesterday’s New York Times, a couple who sued a major Brooklyn developer over 109 “missing” square feet in a condo just walked away with their deposit plus $150,000 to settle the case as a jury was about to be selected.
Not long before closing on a two-bedroom condo in Brooklyn, they measured the living room, dining room and kitchen, coming up with 634 square feet versus the 743 square feet that had been advertised.
After arguing until March 23, when a jury was to be selected, developer Two Trees Management decided to cough up $81,077 for the contract deposit plus interest as well as $150,000, according to Haughney. That settlement provided that plaintiffs Rishi and Heather Bhandari would not live in any of the company’s buildings for four years.
So incensed does Bhandari remain, however, that he deliberately broke a confidentiality clause and the $20,000 bonus that went with it.
You may have noticed that brokers already have been increasingly reluctant to disclose square footage, hemming and hawing if asked and omitting the number from marketing materials. One reason has been a spate of similar lawsuits so great in number that firms such as Prudential Douglas Elliman forbade its sales personnel from giving out the data.
Now, with Bhandaris’ settlement so prominent in the news, you can expect more brokers than not to demur when asked how big a property is.
What is wrong anyway with merely describing a place, being specific about the number of or impressionist dimensions of the rooms (i.e. unusually large or, say, cozy)? How a place feels to a visiting– which gave rise to the Bhandaris’ lawsuit — is far more important than how many feet is contains.
Some may contend that square footage is critical to comparing the value of one property with others, and that’s true. But one smart broker mentioned to me recently that she prefers price per share in a co-op as the best gauge. That sounds like a good idea to me.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022